LASERS LASERS EVERYWHERE!
The shape of things to come? A miniature robot views the
exhibits at the Earl’s Court Toy Fair
Every year, buyers for the major stores and local toyshops in
the South of England get together at the Earl’s Court Toy Fair and decide
what to order for the 1987 Christmas market. This year it was over run by
There were lasers that fired at each other, some that fired at tanks, others
that fired at targets and those that fired at television screens. What’s
more — there wasn’t a single laser in the entire exhibition!
Confused? well so was I! The story goes along these lines: this year the toy
industry has decided that you and I are all going to buy ‘laser’
guns for Christmas. But none of these ‘laser’ toys feature real
lasers — instead they use a system like the one used in a television
Several games of this type will be available later this year, including
Laser Gun from Ban Dai, Zillion
from Matchbox, and Laser Combat from
Action GT. With this type of gun you need two
players for maximum fun. The one with the gun goes seeking after the target
wearer, and fires at him whenever the target is in view.
The final variation on the theme was the Laser Challenge, which is
the nearest that the toy companies have yet come to making an arcade game.
This package contains a gun and a video tape. This tape depicts a number of
moving characters which you attempt to shoot. Scoring is registered on the gun
itself, with different colours indicating differing values.
There were other new games on show besides the lasers. There were dolls by
the million, including cassette-based models with lips that talk in time to the
words on the cassette. As you’d expect there were cuddly bears by the
hundred — but what I didn’t expect was a cuddly computer screen.
MB Games were showing Animator; an LCD
screen which allows you to draw and animate pretty pictures. I suppose that
it’s a cross between The Art Studio and an Etch-a-Sketch —
but not half as much fun!
There were a couple of computers at the show. The first was the Nintendo Games Console on the Mattel stand, and the other was on the stand of the only
mainstream computer manufacturer at the show — Atari.
The Nintendo made a huge impact in Japan last
year, and a few software houses are already planning to support this machine
when it starts to sell in Europe. This console has special cartridges that use
a robot assistant (R.O.B. — your Robotic Operating Buddy!) to help you
play the game.
I asked for a demonstration of this system using the robot assistant, and
have never seen anything so complicated and difficult in all my life. The product
manager assigned to do the demo was in real trouble — he had to keep
talking at the same time as changing screens, moving the robot up and down,
spinning the gyroscopes and moving the little man on the screen. Sounds like
just the sort of game we could use for a reviewer’s challenge...
Atari were proudly displaying their 2600 games
console — yes it’s that machine again, the original Atari. They also had the 130XE computer, newly
described as a Games Computer and the brand new 65XE Games
What is particularly interesting about this machine is that it is basically
an Atari computer with a cartridge socket and no
keyboard, but it can be built up into a full computer system with a range of
In all there was plenty to see at this year’s fair, and plenty that
you will be seeing on Television later in the year.
Budget masters Mastertronic are
entering the full-price market with a bang — they’ve just bought
The details are secret, but Melbourne House
claim they were paid a seven-figure sum — making this one of the biggest
takeover deals in the history of the industry (in financial terms, at
Both houses plan to publish software under their own names; and Beam Software, a separate company owned by the founders
of Melbourne House and responsible for many of
Melbourne’s products, will carry on
developing programs for the label.
Mastertronic has been looking to acquire a
‘full-price’ software house for some time, a company spokesman
said, and they were impressed by Melbourne
House’s product plans.
But this doesn’t mean Mastertronic will
change their own policy on budget games. Mastertronic are selling up a new arcade-games division,
Arcadia Systems Inc. This will concentrate on
making coin-op video games — but Arcadia’s arcade games could find their way into
Mastertronic’s product range.
Mirrorsoft are empire-building, too. Their
parent company, Pergamon Press has acquired two US
software houses, Spectrum Holobyte Inc and Nexa Corporation. And, closer to home, the group has
conquered wargames specialists PSS.
Gary Mays, joint managing director of PSS, is
happy about the move — it’ll give his company guaranteed
distribution and financial security for new projects, he says.
PSS plans include Battlefield Germany,
a wargame set at the beginning of World War III in Europe, and
Bismark, a simulation of the famous World War II naval action.
They’re also planning a Spectrum version of Tobruk that will
be playable by two people, each sitting at their own machine networked through
the joystick port. The Spectrum version should feature an arcade sequence, and
is intended to appeal to a much wider market than the wargamers who have
traditionally been the main supporters of PSS
OUT AND DOWN!
Two games until now only available at full price have been
rereleased on budget labels. Virgin’s
Falcon Patrol II has resurfaced on the £1.99 Bug Byte label and Willow Pattern has gone from
Super Silver to Silver — getting a pound cheaper in the
Arkanoid from Ocean
arrived just too late for review. It’s a micro version of the arcade hit
and marks the return to popularity for Breakout-type games.
Breakout originally appeared in the dim and distant past at the dawn of the
arcade industry. Arkanoid adds lots of extra features, including
aliens, indestructible bricks, bricks that only disappear after three hits, and
bricks that release bonus pods. Hitting a bonus pod causes changes... the bat
may grow larger, turn into a laser or become sticky, and sometimes you can
choose to go on to the next level.
Mark Smith, winner of the Hewson
City Slicker competition sits at the feet of his hero, Daley Thompson
— well actually a waxwork of the world-champion breaking decathlete at
Madame Tussaud’s. Mark was treated to a whirlwind tour of London,
escorted by our very own Girlie Tipster Hannah Smith and the wonderful Julia
Coombs from Hewson.
The end of tape azimuth problems is in sight according to Load-It. If you send them your cassette deck together
with £9.95 they’ll fit a little azimuth-tweaking knob before sending
it back. Then, when a tape fails to load, you can twiddle the azimuth knob
until you get the clearest tone from the loudspeaker. A scale around the knob
can be used to read off the optimum setting for that game — make a note
of the number on the inlay card, and the azimuth knob can be set to the best
position whenever that game is loaded again.
A WH Smiths Data Recorder with the LOAD IT azimuth adjustor
After a short lull in their packed schedule of releases, Piranha are getting ready to launch another batch of
games into the Spectrum universe. Don Priestley, creator of Popeye and
Trapdoor, is developing another game in which Berk has to get to work
— Trapdoor II.
A game based on the Royal Family is on the drawing board, too, as well as
the official Yogi Bear licensed game, scheduled for summer release. The top
talents of Delta 4 are going to work on a spoof
adventure, The Great American Detective, and Piranha have acquired two more licences —
Judge Death and Roy of the Rovers.
If something’s worth doing well, it’s worth doing
That could be the motto of the GENESIS design-a-game contest we ran together
with Domark last year. And now, following the
Christmas success of the first GENESIS game (Kat Trap), comes another
winner — The Sewer, from 16 year-old Martin Lee of Exeter.
Martin visited Domark’s South London HQ
to discuss his plan with Graham Stafford of Design
Design, who’ll be responsible for the programming.
The game’s a blend of subterranean strategy and arcade action —
you race against time to rescue work men trapped by rising water, acid and the
unfriendly rats and leeches of the underworld.
Graham Stafford will be coding on the Amstrad — he reckons it makes
conversions easier — but don’t worry. The Sewer will be
released for the Spectrum too.
Read all about it in AMTIX! magazine, which borrowed our man Minson to sit
in on that first brainstorming session. He came away burbling something about a
classic in the making...